“If George Zimmerman was not engaged in any unlawful activity and was attacked anyplace where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force.” (Judge Debra Nelson’s Instruction to the Jury in the Zimmerman Trial).
In the end this case was ALL about George Zimmerman’s rights and Trayvon Martin nearly disappeared. Martin was a victim of a legislative code that has now institutionalized behavior that could bring back the kind of behavior associated with the era of Jim Crow. A message must be sent that Trayvon’s death is a warning and it will be prophetic if we do not alter the course we are on as a people. It is time to take the case back from George Zimmerman and make it about all of the Trayvon Martins whose lives have been more perilous by the actions of the Florida legislature, and the actions in this court.
As of Tuesday morning, one million people had signed the NAACP petition asking the Department of Justice to pursue federal and civil rights charges against George Zimmerman after he was found “not guilty” in the murder of Trayvon Martin. Many are clear that verdict does not mean he is innocent.
The reaction has been one of outrage, anger, heartbreak, anxiety and fear. But we cannot let these emotions rule us. We are called to act. The laws that made this verdict possible need to change. The political pressure from the right, especially the NRA, that I believe affected the quality of the prosecution needs to met with more pressure to serve all of the people. And this new outrage must be put into context with all of the other outrages that have come our way from shootings in Newtown, to the gutting of the VRA, to the hijacking of women’s health concerns in NC and TX, to…..well, there is a long list.
In this we need to begin with the pursuit of justice for Trayvon Martin, and it continues with a comprehensive campaign to fight the underlying problems factors that led to his death.
The first step is clear: we must make sure that George Zimmerman is held accountable for his actions. The jury’s decision must be respected and the rule of law upheld, but that does not mean the investigation should be considered complete. The trial judge’s decision to discount debate about race or racial profiling in the courtroom and to insert (with the approval of both the prosecution and the defense) language into the jury instructions tried to set aside the open questions about Zimmerman’s motivation and intent.
We have a chance to challenge racial profiling in all its forms. We can send a message that we will not accept this as the status quo.
We have a choice. We can be felled by our sorrows over the jury’s decision. Or we can turn our frustration into action. We can demand the Department of Justice address the travesties of this tragedy.
Sign the NAACP’s petition at www.naacp.org.